RP’s Role in “Asian NATO”
By Erick San Juan
Who could have thought that the naval incident that happened in March can create tensions that might lead to a regional conflict and a global war in the process. I am referring to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in the Yellow Sea where US took the lead of putting the blame on North Korea. But it didn’t end there, after four months, tensions began to build up again using the incident for the US to conduct naval exercises – first with South Korea and then with Vietnam. The timing is perfect as the ASEAN countries met for the Asian regional security meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. In the said meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced her intention to begin meddling on a grand scale in the already difficult disputes about the islands and oil in the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. As the New York Times sums up Mrs. Clinton’s demarche: ‘Opening a new source of potential friction with China, the Obama administration is stepping into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically significant islands in the South China Sea’.
Through Sec. Clinton, Washington expressed its willingness to help facilitate meetings with countries which has claims over the disputed groups of islands in the South China Sea. ‘Though presented as an offer to help ease tensions, the stance amounts to a sharp rebuke to China. Beijing has insisted for years that all the islands belong to China and that any disputes should be resolved by China. In March, senior Chinese officials pointedly warned their American counterparts that they would brook no interference in the South China Sea, which they called part of the “core interest” of sovereignty.’ (Source: Mark Landler, ‘Offering to Aid Talks, U.S. Challenges China on Disputed Islands,’ New York Times, July 23, 2010)
The renewed interest in South China Sea, as tensions build up between US and China, put our country in a very difficult situation as “Retired Navy Adm. James Lyons, in a commentary in the editorial pages of The Washington Times (August 11), said the US should consider leasing a squadron of F-16 along with T-38 supersonic trainers, aircraft for maritime patrol and two FFG-7 guided-missile frigates to provide a recognized capability to enforce the Philippines’ offshore territorial claims.”
Lyons said,"Now that President Barack Obama’s administration has directly challenged China, the US should expand its relations with ASEAN by building on our Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.”
Then in August 14, a news item came out through Reuters, " A senior Chinese military strategist called planned US naval exercises in the region a provocation and accused the Obama administration of seeking to encircle China and pursuing a “chaotic” approach towards Beijing. The commentary, in the top paper of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was China’s latest verbal broadside against Washington, which Beijing has accused of stirring tension in the region with a series of military drills near its borders.
“On one hand, it wants China to play a role in regional security issues. On the other hand, it is engaging in an increasingly tight encirclement of China and constantly challenging China’s core interests,” Rear Admiral Yang Yi wrote in the Liberation Army Daily. The Pentagon plans new joint naval exercises with ally South Korea and will send a US aircraft carrier into the Yellow Sea, between China and the Korean peninsula.
Given this scenario, as perceived by the world community, Taiwan News ran a feature entitled "China reports: the US means to set up another NATO in Asia," which cited Chinese news media, scholars and analysts warning that "The US is establishing another 'NATO' in Asia to contain China as evidenced in the ongoing high-profile naval exercise with South Korea and a perceived intrusion in South China Sea affairs. These moves including explicit intervention in Asian affairs underline the US's schemes to challenge China over its growing presence in this area...."
Chinese scholar Shih Yongming, asserted that "The US is capitalizing on the contradictions among East Asian countries to form a front against China," in reference to U.S.
Now that the Filipino nation is in a very tight position between the growing US – China rift that could affect our stand as one of the claimants in the disputed group of islands and our friendly relations with both countries. It is high time that our leaders and the Filipinos as a nation to show a united stand amidst the growing conflicts besetting this region.
As US Retired Navy Adm. James Lyons put it - “The new Philippine president will come under intense pressure from China to prevent any expansion of US activities. However, neither we nor the new Philippine government should be deterred by Chinese bluster from doing what is right.”
This is the litmus test that will show the real color of P-Noy, if what they say is true that he is not an American lapdog. Let us all be vigilant and always be on the lookout when it comes to his administration’s foreign policies. As we always say, for the benefit of all PINOYs!